Thomas Bullock (1st Quarter, 2008)

1st Quarter, 2008
Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship
Thomas Bullock

Thomas Bullock was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. From a young age, his favorite interests were the outdoors, animals, reading, and telling stories. Attending Judge Memorial High school, his interests channeled into theatre, health science and community service. He became president of the environmental club and the National Honors Society. At the University of Chicago, Thomas balanced pre-medical courses with writing, acting and directing theater and circus performances. In his year between undergraduate studies and medical school, Thomas traveled to Costa Rica, Greece and Turkey before relocating back to Utah to be a snowboarding instructor and teach general chemistry. He is conducting research at the University of San Francisco.

A Portion of Thomas’ Winning Essay:

Thomas Bullock

Though I have expansive interests, I can confidently claim that “becoming a doctor is the most important thing I want to accomplish in my life”. This is because I have taken the time to learn how much good a doctor can do for the community and what a life in medicine entails. However, more so, I want this because I know what I want to change within medicine. There are people who need my help, and wont get it if I don’t do something about it. There are programs, reforms and education initiatives that wont be if I don’t make them. I value medicine not only for what it does for others; I love it for what I can do for medicine. It is important that I spend my life making people better and I see a future in my medical education that can make this possible.

The expression “I want to help people” isn’t a flashy phrase. It is a ubiquitous phrase expressed by all types: the well intending, the team player, even the customer servant. It’s utterance is certainly not striking. What is striking, however, is what it means to give someone back a life that they feared they lost. When helping people means devoting your day to saving lives, or intervening when life inevitably meets misfortune for someone in no position to help themselves, or offering someone the relief of knowing “you will be ok” when they feared their lives had changed forever- the value can be seen free of the semantics. We have all been in these moments, as a victim or an observer. I have seen these moments while I shadowed doctors day after day, wondering if medicine would be interesting. I came to learn there is nothing more important to me than to have the power to make life “all better” again.

My actions and credentials support the convictions I express above. I received my BA in Biological Sciences specializing in endocrinology (ultimately being admitted to Phi Beta Kappa), worked while in school in a lab trying to treat Parkinson’s disease, volunteered at a hospital, shadowed ten different kinds of doctors, and created an undergraduate discussion club to discuss health care issues. It is with this effort that I was accepted by the top medical schools of the country, but, unfortunately, do not have the financial means to afford this education. I have been fortunate enough to be accepted at UCSF School of Medicine, which is the school of my dreams. All these efforts should indicate that my medical education is of the utmost importance to me.

I have alluded earlier that my intention is not only to learn the practice of medicine but to change it. Upon the earnest guidance of a mentor, I was encouraged to keep my interests and talents as wide ranging as possible. The ability to think from a different vantage point, or relate to another person in different circumstance is considered essential and desperately needed in the future of medicine. The efforts of good doctors is not enough; the system needs new eyes to see, and a new heart. I have been advised to show I can make it, and them make it better for others. That is why while I act passionately in my exploration and pursuit of a career in medicine, I try to do everything in my power to develop other dimensions of myself. This allows me to be better at helping all I see, but perhaps more importantly, it will also keep my interests in serving those that I do not see.

The depth and variety of my interests has helped me to become a strong personality, with good perspective and a winsome love for life- becoming a doctor has always been part of that attitude. But my ideals and my experiences shape and influence each other, and push me to become an earnest, inquisitive person with a distinctive taste for life. As I love the taste of life, I want to save lives. This is why I believe I will be able to do so. Using what I lean and applying it to those in the greatest need will always be what is important to me, because I want everyone to have the health to pursue their lives, with the intensity that I pursue my own. I know this is not entirely possible; it is goal, but caring physicians can make a difference. Health is the keystone to supporting a quality life.

Just as it is crucial that I explain why my medical education is important to me, it is essential that that I explain how important your financial education assistance is to these same ideals. At present, medical student debt is a gross conflict of interest with humanitarian ideals. Medical school training provides one with the expertise to effectively manage challenging scientific and emotional concerns in order to do good- the cost of this education should not undermine the ideals behind it. My drive to practice medicine is to help people, to give the greatest aid to those who need it most, and to continually advance my expertise so that I may always do better. In my search for a financial education scholarship, I am seeking the financial means to an education aimed at helping humanity while also keeping my interests where they belong- ie helping people with my skills.

The statistics before me are intimidating. Knowing my own financial resources are weaker than those making up the data is more worrisome. Currently, a medical student can expect to graduate with a debt averaging $139,517, as it was in 2007, though some report a principal of over $350,000.(1) This value varies most due to family contribution and scholarships provided to the student. Interest rates for Stafford loans (the primary loan used by medical student) are 7%. In-state tuition and fees at some public schools exceed the amount that can be borrowed through Stafford loans, forcing students to accept high-rate private debt to continue their education. Presently, loan payments consume between 40 and 50% of the average resident’s after-tax salary (about 10 dollars/hour).(2) What is particularly concerning to me is not only the amount of debt created for me and my future family, but the ramifications that this debt has on an doctor’s humanitarian efforts. The magnitude of debt, high interest rates and its accelerating trend has caused many authorities to coin the term “medical debt crisis”(1). To explain: The American Medical Assoc. quotes:

“Debt crisis harms both students and patients. The increase in debt not only burdens medical students, but can have effects on the entire health care system. Some of correlations found include:

Decrease in primary care physicians- Students with high debt are less likely to pursue family practice and primary care specialties and instead seek specialties with higher income or more leisure time.

Decreased diversity of physician workforce- The cost of tuition can prevent students from low-income/minority and those with other financial responsibilities from attending medical school- Physician diversity is necessary to address the needs of heterogeneous, multicultural patient populations

Promoting unsafe physician behaviors- Residents with high debt must moonlight which increases fatigue and may contribute to medical errors and depression among residents.(1)

Medical schools attempt to balance this significant financial disincentive by noting the elevated pay a physician may receive several years into a practice. Unfortunately, this incentive scheme provides little consolation to those whom medicine needs most: doctors entering underfunded populations, targeting epidemics though combined treatment and education, and instituting systemic and fecund programs to heal those in the greatest need. That is, future doctors like myself. Rather, many MD’s who have larger humanitarian aspirations are incentivised into private practice due to the pressure of their significant loans which are accruing interest. There is unfortunately little pay for providing healing to those in the greatest need. The pay incentives in medicine come from treating the diseases of those with financial means, not preventing disease or stabilizing epidemics. This incentive scheme highlights how important scholarships are for future physicians with fresh ideals and intentions for positive change.

Under no conditions will I sacrifice my ideals; I live to make the world better. Providing funding for medical education allows these ideals to progress into driven care more than altruism and self-sacrifice. I hope I will receive the scholarship due to my convictions and merit. My credentials provided in the previous essay are intended to indicate my abilities and provide you with confidence as concerns my competence and expectations for excellent future performance. I hope my provided testimony and history of service will indicate that I will use every dime of scholarship to better my ability to help others.

The fight for affordable medical education is a crucial component of democratic access to quality education and for a health care system that guarantees humanitarianism and excellent quality. There is nothing more important to me than receiving my medical education. My debt is the necessary product of my effort to help the world; your scholarship helps me and my efforts I appreciate your assistance

Reference 1) American Medical Assoc: Feb 13, 2008, Reference 2) People’s Weekly World Newspaper, 04/07/05 Reference 3) Task Force on Medical Student Debt, Final Draft, (I-03)

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